Can’t Keep Up? 6 Ways to Declutter Your Home Library

books in a stack (a stack of books)

photo via flickr

A couple of years ago, about this time in the year, my husband and I decided to pack up our belongings, stuff them into storage, and move into my brother’s home until I had my third child. We were unsure of our future job and future living conditions (such a long story. I’ll tell you more another time). I had to make some weighty decisions about what I loved in our home. We held a garage sale, sold several clothes items in consignment, and … gulp … weeded out our home library.

As an English teacher for five years and a literature student for five years before that, I had amassed quite the book stash. My mom also meticulously kept most of my books from my childhood. So ultimately, I had to make some big sacrifices. Many book lovers will agree – throwing or giving away a book is not unlike giving away a piece of yourself.

Through this process I learned book collecting was not as important as keeping my family organized. I had to roll with the seasons of our life. I decided we could weed out the bulk and learn to rely on a good library system for our books. If you have to face a similar situation, here are some questions to consider when thinning out your home library:

1. Do I love this book and reread it often? There are books in my life I could never sell or donate. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, The Poisonwood Bible, and the Harry Potter series. I reread at least one of these books each year, and I like to have them on hand when my need to reread strikes, often on rainy days or sick days. If you don’t have a desire to reread a book, you can probably stick it in the “Give Away” or “Sell” pile.

2. Does this book mark a significant moment? When I travelled in college, I would buy books from the places I visited. One of my favorite books is a book of poetry by New York authors about New York City. I don’t reread the book very often; however, the book serves as a reminder of my visit, and I like the cover. Remember, however, to not look at every book as the most important keepsake to mark a significant moment. For instance, I decided to ditch several wedding present books because I had never read them, and I had other tokens of my wedding day more special to me (like my wedding ring…and my husband).

3. Was this book a gift? My husband once received a book as a groomsman’s gift. The groom picked a different book for each groomsman (He bought Tyler Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller), and then he wrote a thoughtful note inside the cover. Cool gift, right? Well, we, of course, will never part with this book. We want to keep the memory of this friend’s thoughtfulness, and we also really like the book. On the other hand, I received other books as gifts with a simple “To-From” inscription, and the book itself offered no special insight to me. I sold or donated these books, deciding an organized home was more important than keeping something just because someone gave it to me.

4. Do I Have Room? Seriously. If you do not have room for a personal library, you just don’t have the room. Have you noticed your kids play with their toys more when those toys are organized? Same philosophy with books. If you only have a small space, focus on displaying a few age appropriate and classic books and utilize your public library for everything else.

5. Is the book damaged? I still had my threadbare copy of the Little House on the Prairie series from my childhood. I decided to give this set away because, even though I planned on reading these books with my children, I wanted to update them. I also threw away chewed and ripped board books.

6. Does this Book Fit My Philosophy? If the book is not something you like or enjoy reading for yourself or your kids, then get rid of it. I personally do not like movie character kids’ books. They are usually horribly written and boring. Yet, my kids choose these books from the library give away pile, receive them as gifts from family members, etc. So, when I feel our library getting a little too full, I chunk these books first – when the kids are not looking of course. For myself, I look at a book and think, “Would I recommend this book to someone else?” If not, I get rid of it.

In another post, we will talk about ways to give away, sell, or repurpose books.

  1. #1 by Joy on May 9, 2012 - 8:38 am

    Wait….didn’t I give you one of those books for your wedding??? Kidding! In all seriousness, very good points here. I couldn’t agree more with #6. Character books mst go! Why are these the books people insist on giving as gifts? Sigh.

  2. #2 by Joy on May 9, 2012 - 8:39 am


  3. #3 by Gina Decker on May 9, 2012 - 9:39 am

    Great post, Kelly! We have a shop full of books that we will eventually have to sort through.

  4. #4 by kellywiggains on May 9, 2012 - 10:36 am

    Joy, You and Dan gave me a pizza stone and a peanut butter spreader from Pampered Chef. I don’t remember every wedding gift, but I remember that one because I use both items so often! Love you, friend.

    Thanks, Gina! Good luck with the sorting. We have a shed full of junk right now, too. Out of sight, out of mind for now.

  5. #5 by erinhelm on May 10, 2012 - 6:46 am

    Yes! More de-cluttering in our library is a great idea. Thanks for the tips. Why is it so much more difficult for me to weed through my kid’s books? Seriously, those kids could start their own public library.

  6. #6 by Heather Griffin on May 11, 2012 - 2:59 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this, Kelly! One of my projects to accomplish this summer is going through all of my old books from my childhood, which are stored in the attic, as well as many of our kids’ books I have saved. I need to learn how to decide which ones are really important to me and to them and get rid of the rest. Oh, and I despise movie character books, too, even though our kids loved them!

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